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10 Marvel Movie Sequels Way Better Than Their Predecessor


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Summary

  • Not every sequel can improve on what came before, but several MCU and non-MCU Marvel movies have done just that.
  • Some notable Marvel sequels build on the solid foundation of their predecessors, giving audiences more of a good thing.
  • Other notable Marvel movie sequels found success by treading new ground and avoiding what had already been done with their characters.

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The hope for all Marvel movie sequels is that they can learn from their forebears and improve on what came before, but history has shown that that’s only the case on a few select occasions. That’s not always a bad thing – the MCU movie timeline and the various series that came before or during it have been filled with wonderful projects that are simply tough acts to follow. Moreover, repeating more of a good thing can make less of an impact, while deviating too far from a proven strategy can fail to work out as intended.

However, some of the best Marvel movie sequels either successfully build on promising foundations, find a bold new direction to explore, or correct mistakes from previous projects. These projects often build off previously established hype from already solid movies or, in rare instances, pull an audience back after damaging disappointment. Regardless, these Marvel movie sequels one up what came before them and remain some of the best movies in the superhero genre.

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10 Spider-Man 2 Remains One Of The Wall-Crawler’s Best

Spider-Man 2 (2004) Is The Sequel To Spider-Man (2002)

Spider-Man 2

Release Date
June 30, 2004

Cast
Donna Murphy , Alfred Molina , Tobey Maguire , James Franco , Rosemary Harris , Kirsten Dunst

Spider-Man (2002) didn’t single-handedly kick off the modern superhero genre, but it’s hard to oversell how culturally significant Peter Parker’s first live-action movie was. Bright, bold, and vibrant – in contrast to the previously popular run of Batman movies – Spider-Man delivered previously unseen fidelity in special effects and presented an optimistic and unified New York in a time that needed it. While Spider-Man 2 wasn’t as novel as its predecessor, it does succeed in telling a much more interesting story with better fight scenes and an equally impressive villain.

As an origin story, Spider-Man takes a while to get going, and while Willem Dafoe remains iconic as Norman Osborn over 20 years later, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2 is a much better reflection of the source material than Green Goblin. Spider-Man 2 jumps right into the action without forgetting about a good story and memorable characters, and the movie remains a masterclass in pacing. All that operates in addition to set pieces that have aged wonderfully well, such as Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus’s frantic battle atop a moving train.

As a testament to their longevity, both Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Molina’s Doc Ock returned to live-action in Spider-Man: No Way Home.

9 Thor: Ragnarok Was The Reinvention Thor Needed

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Is The Sequel To Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Chris Hemsworth delivered a solid performance in Thor, Thor: The Dark World, and his Avengers movie appearances, but it was clear before Ragnarok that the character just wasn’t clicking on the same level as his co-heroes. While Thor: The Dark World is in the discussion for the worst MCU movie, Ragnarok solves virtually all of its problems and delivers a wonderful adventure that both works as a stand-alone viewing experience and as an integral chapter in the wider MCU.

Whereas The Dark World suffered from a dull tone, flat hero, and wildly forgettable villain, Ragnarok gives Thor a big personality boost and villain, Hela, who perfectly walks the line between legitimately threatening and comic-book silliness. Ragnarok also finally took the power cap off Thor, letting him fully let loose and showcasing why the God of Thunder isn’t one to be trifled with. Moreover, the movie gets points for a creative ending that sees Thor sacrifice his homeworld for the safety of his people – a bold decision that’s shaped Asgardians’ narrative in the MCU ever since.

Thor’s Ragnarok follow-up, Thor: Lover and Thunder, does much of the same as its predecessor, but a less engaging story and clashing tones from scene to scene meant it failed to perform as well, critically or financially.

8 Iron Man 3 Is Divisive But Avoids Being More Of The Same

Iron Man 3 (2013) Is The Sequel To Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 3

Release Date
May 3, 2013

Director
Shane Black

Iron Man kicked off the MCU with a bang, but Iron Man2 failed to spark the same pop-culture excitement. While Tony’s second solo movie does a lot right, one of its biggest flaws is that it treads too much familiar ground. For better or for worse, Iron Man 3 doesn’t have that problem. Director Shane Black lends his signature style to Iron Man’s third movie, and the movie feels undeniably unique.

While turning the Mandarin into a huge joke of a twist is a brilliant move for some and a waste of a classic character to others, it’s hard to argue that Tony’s suit-less escapades aren’t unique for the character and don’t put the emphasis back on Tony’s intelligence. Moreover, the climactic battle is perhaps the best in the Iron Man trilogy, giving Pepper a more proactive role to play and showcasing dozens of unique Iron Man suits with the House Party Protocol assault.

7 Captain America: The Winter Soldier Remains One Of The MCU’s Best

Captain America: The Winter Solder (2014) Is The Sequel To Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger remains a solid MCU origin story movie, but Captain America: The Winter Soldier is about as close to a perfect movie as the MCU has gotten in its 16-year run. The movie explores Captain America in the modern MCU timeline in an interesting way without turning his situation into too big of a joke, and the story, centered on Hydra infiltrating SHIELD, works as a legitimate espionage thriller even without the superheroes.

Most importantly, Captain America: The Winter Soldier succeeds because it focuses on characters first and set pieces second. Winter Soldier’s introduction is as emotional for Steve as it is visually striking, and Natasha and Cap on the run do a lot to move forward the franchise characterization for both. The movie also presents Nick Fury at arguably his most effective, something the franchise has largely struggled with since.

6 Infinity War Fixes All Of Age Of Ultron’s Problems

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Is The Sequel To Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)

Avengers: Age of Ultron suffered from a villain who came and went too quickly and a story that spent too much time setting up future plotlines, and Infinity War excels in both of those regards. It’s difficult to remember in hindsight how little was known about what the MCU would do with Thanos in the lead-up to Infinity War, but the movie instantly establishes him as one of the MCU’s best villains and well worth the build-up. While the pilot clearly sets up Endgame, it also works incredibly well on its own (and the wait for the follow-up movie was quite short).

Infinity War is the ultimate proof-of-concept for the MCU, delivering a bombastic story that directly relies on years of previous movies while remaining as functional as a film itself. While Avengers (2012) broke new ground by bringing six heroes together, Infinity War upped the ante by including dozens, and each one got their due time to shine. It’s debatable which movie is better between Infinity War and Endgame, but there’s no argument that Infinity War outdoes its predecessor in every way.

5 The Marvels Addresses A Previous Captain Marvel MCU Complaint

The Marvels (2023) Is The Sequel To Captain Marvel (2019)

It’s difficult to write incredibly powerful characters well, and it was a common criticism of Captain Marvel that Carol Danvers was written to be too stoic and without proper challenges. Right or wrong, The Marvels made the right call to give Carol a wonderful supporting cast that allows all three – Carol Danvers, Monica Rambeau, and Kamala Khan – to let their personalities shine through. Monica, Carol, and Kamala have instant chemistry that makes both action scenes and stretches of dialogue better, and Captain Marvel comes out a much more nuanced and compelling character for it.

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4 Spider-Man: No Way Home Stands Out From Other Multiverse Stories

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) Is The Sequel To Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Release Date
December 17, 2021

Director
Jon Watts

Spider-Man: No Way Home was a big risk for the MCU. Multiverse stories are commonplace in the superhero genre now, but No Way Home broke new ground by bringing back Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and a slew of their previous on-screen villains for a collective adventure. Doing so risked sidelining the MCU’s Peter Parker and looking like pure nostalgia bait, but the results speak for themselves. While Far From Home is undoubtedly a good movie, No Way Home is a love letter to decades of Spider-Man movies and characters that are unlikely to be topped in live-action.

3 Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Sticks The Landing

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) Is The Sequel To Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a solid movie that’s well worth revisiting, but the trilogy closer is a more emotionally resonant story that nails the difficult challenge of providing closure in a shared universe. Sympathetic villains can be great, but GotG 3‘s High Evolutionary succeeds in being wholly and irredeemably evil. Moreover, he drives the truly heartbreaking story about Rocket and his tragic past.

The Guardians movies have always been centered on a strong emotional core, and that’s ramped up not only as Rocket faces the monster that made him but also as the original team finally goes their separate ways. Avoiding the expected deaths most audiences thought they saw coming, Gunn does something more challenging – he gives each teammate an ending befitting their multi-movie journey. The Legendary Star-Lord will return to the MCU in some capacity, but if GotG 3 is the last outing for the rest of the squad, they’ve been given a fitting bookend.

2 X2: X-Men United Still Holds Up Over Two Decades Later

X2 (2003) Is The Sequel to X-Men (2000)

X-Men was hugely important in ushering in the modern age of superhero movies, but it hasn’t aged quite as well as its sequel. Whereas X-Men was burdened with spending most of its run-time easing viewers into the idea of X-Men and their place in the world, X2 is a much more tightly paced film with a more character-driven story. The first movie’s familiar faces are joined by newcomers like the still-visually-stunning Nightcrawler, and Wolverine’s history of mystery and abuse grounds the X-Men’s more national issues with Senator Kelly. Moreover, and more surprisingly, the special effects hold up remarkably well.

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1 Logan Is The Best Wolverine Movie By Far

Logan (2017) Is The Sequel To The Wolverine (2013)

Despite being one of the biggest breakout stars of Fox’s X-Men movie franchise, Wolverine’s solo movies aren’t as good overall as they probably should be. However, to their credit, each subsequent project gets better. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is a misfire on most levels outside of casting. The Wolverine offers a much improved but still ultimately flawed story, but Logan remains one of the finest superhero movies of all time.

Logan took a big risk by eschewing the massive action set-pieces X-Men movies are known for in favor of a slow, heartbreaking character story. Taking a man known for healing and rage and giving him genuine vulnerability shows Logan in a previously unseen light that’s augmented by the dichotomy between the young Laura and the elderly Charles Xavier. Moreover, Logan gives its titular hero a perfect end to a centuries-long narrative that works as a goodbye both in-universe and out, even if Deadpool 3 is set to feature Wolverine in one more Marvel movie.

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